Reconciliation Lectionary: Matthew 5:38-47

mary-the-penitent.jpgThe classic passage on non-violence. My pastor preached again this weekend. He didn’t mince words. Non-violence (not passive acquiescence!) is not a suggestion:

“You have heard that it was said,
An eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth.
But I say to you, offer no resistance to one who is evil.
When someone strikes you on your right cheek,
turn the other one as well.
If anyone wants to go to law with you over your tunic,
hand over your cloak as well.
Should anyone press you into service for one mile,
go for two miles.
Give to the one who asks of you,
and do not turn your back on one who wants to borrow.

“You have heard that it was said,
You shall love your neighbor and hate your enemy.
But I say to you, love your enemies
and pray for those who persecute you,
that you may be children of your heavenly Father,
for he makes his sun rise on the bad and the good,
and causes rain to fall on the just and the unjust.
For if you love those who love you, what recompense will you have?
Do not the tax collectors do the same?
And if you greet your brothers (and sisters) only,
what is unusual about that?
Do not the pagans do the same?
So be perfect, just as your heavenly Father is perfect.”

Without the grace of God, Fr Jon Seda concedes, this commandment is impossible. Our natural tendency, our society’s tendency to enact vengeance still does not achieve the desired result. The first offense remains. And we have fallen into sin.

After Mass he said he expected he was going to get a few calls preaching as strongly as he did on this thread. And that will be a wedge in which to begin a few conversations, I’m sure.

For the Rite of Penance, how does this passage from the Sermon on the Mount serve? It is at the end of a very long excerpt (verses 17-47) that even the Sunday Lectionary chops into two pieces–this weekend’s and last (6th and 7th Ordinary Sundays, cycle A). What sort of penitent we be ready to hear it? A person in individual reconciliation struggling with revenge, perhaps. A faith community? That may be a more difficult sell.

If a parish were struggling collectively with the response to a serious injustice, perhaps that might work. Preached carefully, such a reading could open up a community to consider possibilities of healing. And that would include the possibility of wishing conversion and repentance on the part of the aggressor.

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About catholicsensibility

Todd and his family live in Ames, Iowa. He serves a Catholic parish of both Iowa State students and town residents.
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